Currently, Facebook is seeing close to 8,000 of its users die on a daily basis. As a result, there are predictions that it will have more profiles for dead users than profiles for living users by the end of the century, meaning that the social media site is on its way to becoming the biggest "virtual graveyard" that can be found in the entire world.
For those who are curious, Facebook has processes in place for the profiles for Facebook users who pass away. In short, Facebook users can choose someone to serve as their "Legacy Contact." Sometimes, this means a friend. Other times, this means a family member. Whatever the case, the Legacy Contact will be able to make certain changes to the Facebook user's profile once it has been memorialized upon Facebook receiving news that said individual has passed away.
First, the Legacy Contact can create a post to be shown at the top of the memorialized timeline. Second, the Legacy Contact can make changes to both the profile photo and the update photo. Third, the Legacy Contact can approve new friend requests, though they cannot either send new friend requests or remove existing names on the friend list. Fourth, if the Facebook user made the option available, their Legacy Contact can download the sum of their photos, their videos, their posts, their events, and other information in the form of an archive, which can then be shared with people via hard disks, pen drives, and other storage mediums.
With that said, it is important to note that Legacy Contacts are not the Facebook users themselves, meaning that they do not have anywhere near the same kind of access as said individuals. As already mentioned, this can be seen in how they can accept new friend requests but can't send out new friend requests. Likewise, this can be seen in how Legacy Contacts can't actually log into the Facebook user's account for the purpose of looking at their private messages. Of course, it should be mentioned that memorializing the Facebook user's profile isn't the sole option, seeing as how it is possible for the Legacy Contact to request the permanent deletion of the profile upon informing them that the Facebook user has passed away.
It is possible for people who are not the Legacy Control to gain this kind of limited control over a deceased Facebook user's profile as well. After all, the content on social media profiles can be seen as a kind of digital asset, meaning that the heirs of the deceased Facebook user has a right to them for the same reason that they have a right to the physical assets. However, there is no guarantee that Facebook will be inclined to listen without some kind of succession certificate from the relevant court, meaning that this can be a rather time-consuming process to say the least. As such, choosing a Legacy Contact tends to be the best option for Facebook users who are thinking about such matters.
What Are the Policies of Other Social Media Sites?
Naturally, other social media sites have their own policies on this particular matter. For example, Google has a feature called Inactive Account Manager, which lets the user choose what happens to their data in the event that they pass away. One option would be sharing it with their friends and family members, while the other option would be deleting the data altogether. Likewise, Twitter has stated that it is perfectly willing to work with either a verified member of the user's family or someone authorized to represent their estate to deactivate a Twitter account. However, Twitter has also made it very clear that it will never provide access to the Twitter account no matter what the request-maker's relationship was with the Twitter user. Besides these, it is interesting to note that Instagram has something similar to Facebook's process set up in the sense that it will memorialize its accounts. However, it is more limited in the sense that it won't let anyone either change anything about the profile or log on to it. Naturally, other service providers have other policies on the whole matter.
Written by Garrett Parker
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